- Deseret News - Saturday, February 14, 2015

A pair of TV movies aimed at families, a golden oldie that should please jazz buffs, a reissue of Disney’s animated classic “101 Dalmatians” and a “Peanuts” theatrical feature arrive on home video this week.

“The Easter Promise”/“Addie and the King of Hearts” (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 1975/1976, two movies). These two made-for-TV CBS movies are the final entries in a four-film franchise that began with “The House Without a Christmas Tree” and “The Thanksgiving Treasure,” set in 1940s Nebraska and based on the four memoirs published by Gail Rock as children’s books.

“The Easter Promise” has young Addie (Lisa Lucas) meeting an old schoolmate of her widowed father (Jason Robards), a now-famous actress (Jean Simmons) whom she convinces to host a school fashion show to give back to her alma mater. “Addie and the King of Hearts” is built around a school Valentine’s Day dance as Addie becomes jealous when her father begins a romance with a local beautician (Diane Ladd), but then finds herself developing a crush of her own.

All four films are lovely, deliberately paced slices of Americana, with wonderful performances by Robards and, as Addie’s grandmother, Mildred Natwick. Lucas is occasionally a bit over the top but not so much that it damages any of these atmospheric, warm and generous tales.

“Syncopation” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 1942, b/w, trailer, nine vintage jazz short films). This long-forgotten golden oldie is making its home-video debut and jazz/big band fans will find it of particular interest. The film’s fictional story purports to chronicle the evolution of jazz into swing music, and is set before, during and after World War I in New Orleans, Chicago and New York. It covers a lot of ground, perhaps too much, as loses its focus here and there.

The main characters are a romantic young couple, a jazz trumpeter (Jackie Cooper, with his playing dubbed by Bunny Berigan) and a piano player (Bonita Granville). The supporting cast includes Adolphe Menjou; George Bancroft; Robert Benchley; Connie Boswell; and, as themselves, Charlie Barnet; Benny Goodman; Harry James; Jack Jenney; Gene Krupa; Alvino Rey; and Joe Venuti, who perform a terrific jam session for the film’s climax.

Even better are the nine theatrical shorts (1929-39) that feature Duke Ellington and (unbilled) Billie Holiday; Louis Armstrong; Bessie Smith; Cab Calloway; Hoagy Carmichael; and Jack Teagarden; Artie Shaw; Don Aspiazu; and Ellington and Fredi Washington. But even some of those include cringe-worthy African-American stereotypes.

“101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 1961, G, featurettes, 1961 episode of “Disneyland”: “The Best Doggoned Dog in the World”). This is, of course, one of Disney’s best and most-loved animated features about a dog named Pongo (voiced by Rod Taylor), his romance with Perdita (voiced by Cate Bauer) and their eventual litter of 101 Dalmatian puppies that are stolen by Cruella de Vil (voiced by Betty Lou Gerson) for the purpose of making a coat! Funny, rich in character and warmth, with lots of clever touches by the great Disney animation team.

“Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown” (Paramount/DVD, 1977, G). This animated feature (76 minutes) was the third theatrical “Peanuts” movie, after “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” and “Snoopy, Come Home.” This time out, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock and the rest of the gang head for summer camp — Camp Remote — where they brave rapids, wild weather and a trio of bullies, complete with a vicious feline.

“The Wild Affair” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1962, b/w). Just before the “swinging ’60s” went into full bloom, this sex farce was probably considered rather edgy, though it’s quite tame now, with its story of an about-to-be-married secretary (Nancy Kwan) being shamelessly flirted with by chauvinistic co-workers. Kwan hit it big with her first two films, the Hollywood productions “The World of Suzie Wong” and “Flower Drum Song,” then went abroad for a trio of English films, this being the third. She proves herself an adept comic actress and is surrounded by familiar British players of the time, chiefly Terry-Thomas, Victor Spinetti and Frank Finlay, with silent-film star Bessie Love as her mother. (Available at warnerarchive.com)

“Born Reckless” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1958, b/w). This goofy modern-day Western romance, a vehicle for Mamie Van Doren in her trying-to-be-Marilyn days, is filled with offbeat songs but its at its best when it’s about rodeo competitions. She’s a saloon singer and trick rider looking for love and sets her sights on a rodeo star (Jeff Richards), but he’s focused on winning money to buy his own spread. Arthur Hunnicutt is enjoyable in support and Tex Williams shows up to warble a tune. (Available at warnerarchive.com)

“White Comanche” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1968). During a summer hiatus between “Star Trek” seasons, William Shatner landed the lead role(s) in this campy Western as twin brothers, a drifting cowpoke and a Comanche warrior with a passion for peyote. The cowboy is mistaken for his vicious sibling, who attacks white settlements, attracting the notice of a local sheriff (Joseph Cotton). And in the end, the twins battle it out — yes, Shatner vs. Shatner. Oh, yeah, it’s a gotta-see-it-to-believe-it one-of-a-kind picture. (Available at warnerarchive.com)

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